Friday, 19 December 2014

.... enjoy yourself.....

Like us, you might by now be weary of the endless stream of emails flowing into your mailbox in a last-ditch attempt to persuade you to buy, buy buy;  so let me assure you, off that bat, that this newsletter is not one of those.  In fact, if you read to the bottom of the page you will see we have a little competition to keep you amused.  We'd also like to wish you a Happy Holiday wherever you are and however you plan to celebrate, whether you visited Les Soeurs Anglaises earlier this year, have taken part in previous years or simply enjoy reading our newsletters from time to time.  From those who have been our guests, the enduring feedback is that women who knit and sew and make and create are generally more interested in the vintage and recycled, the intrinsic history of found objects, the collected, sometimes-used, fragments of fabrics and ephemera;  not for them the shiny new plastic gismo, the excesses of wrapping paper and last minute panic buys that sit beneath our Christmas trees.

photo by Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks

Nothing brought home more to me the joy of repairing and preserving old clothes, than on our recent travels to Japan when we visited the Amuse Museum in Tokyo where they have a permanent exhibition of Boro textiles and clothing; these are patched and re-patched, re-lined, over-stitched and patched again then passed down from generation to generation. Made and preserved by the poor, rural population in the snowy north of Japan who could not afford to buy new when need required, and who had to literally make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets.  Far from being "scruffy" or ugly, the unselfconscious layers and overworking produced clothing of substance and immense beauty.   They are also becoming incredibly collectable (though not by the Japanese it seems) and various patchworkers like Australian, Maria Cook, a participant at Janet Bolton's workshop here last year, have been using Boro pieces long before they became popular, to produce not only her wonderful quilts, but also lined boxes, hand-made books and much, much more.  


Nobody personifies a modern twist on Boro better than our ever-popular workshop star, Julie Arkell.  Julie's exhibition and residency at the Ruthin Craft Centre in Wales this autumn, was by all accounts another runaway success (people are still talking about her first show there in 2004) and it coincided with the publication of her second book, which like the exhibition is called. "Away".  I have had the opportunity to read through the book and explore the photographs of Julie's "creatures" at leisure and have been blown away (yet again) by her unique style and extraordinary creativity.  As Susan Roberts says in her book commentary, 'Julie's practice is embedded in the the history of the found;  she treasures old stuff, collecting it first, using it in her work later.  Each fragment brings history, past usage and cultural reference."  Is it, I wonder, Julie who makes the discarded beautiful, or the ephemera itself that inspires Julie? To be discussed.....


But just so you don't think we are entirely Christmas party poopers, here is a little last minute festive competition for those with time to spare between now and the New Year.  We have Les Soeurs Anglaises' signature aprons (made to order from a combination of new and vintage fabrics) to give to the first three people to answer the question below correctly.  Please type the word "competition" in the subject line on your entry email, and add your address (and size) in the event that you are one of the lucky winners:

Good luck and best wishes for the season.

Monday, 8 December 2014

... here it comes again.......

We are only a heartbeat away from another festive season and no doubt your shopping lists have become heavy with ink.  We at Les Soeurs Anglaises try hard to use the event to steer clear of the present-giving roller-coaster (although the occasional home-made offering is always gratefully received) but rather use the season as an opportunity to relax, reboot and enjoy the company of those people we love but whom we may have neglected a tad over the year.  Everyone is expected to help in some way, whether it's cooking the goose or clearing away the Scrabble board, and we've found that at the first sign of tension there's nothing like a bracing walk in the beautiful, surrounding, wintry countryside to diffuse the situation.

If you have time on your hands during these crazy Christmassy days, here are a few things you might enjoy and that you don't have to check your list for:

  • Visit our favourite men's clothing shop's website, Albam, for some beautiful photography and a great new take on photographic collages by John Spinks.   You dont have to buy anything to enjoy Albam's style and attitude.
  • Listen to any tracks by the incredibly cool and talented, young, virtuoso pianist Luca Sestak. We are thrilled Luca will be performing alongside other top musicians, at our Boogie Woogie Weekend at the beginning of July.  His latest CD, New Way, has some foot-stompingly good tracks to help with the Christmas cheer.
  • Spend some time with a small friend or relative making the perfect paper airplane..  We've started practicing already for a Christmas competition!
  • Time in front of the TV needn't necessarily be wasted.  Learn a few clever knitting techniques from the ever creative Asa Soderman's website (we're getting a few under our belt before she arrives to lead her first workshop for us, Seamlessly Clever, next October).   Her website is chock-a-block full of concise and helpful tricks with clear enough photographs for even a needle-novice.

  • Read all about Adele Stafford who in 2013 launched a project in the US called Voices of Industry  By investing in the independent grower, the biodynamic alchemist and the punk rock shepherdess they care deeply about the origin of materials in the firm belief that the best work comes from shared expertise.  The   process is intensely time-consuming and choreographic and the results can be seen in their meticulous production. 
  • And before we go a little reminder, if you haven't had time yet to consider whether you would like to join us next summer, please note that workshops are filling up fast, so don't leave it too late.  


Thursday, 6 November 2014


In case the last message slipped through your fingers (or landed straight into you spam file!), we thought you would like to know that our calendar for 2015 is now confirmed and ready to view on our website.   We are thrilled with the new line-up; a combination of popular previous workshop leaders, together with a few highly recommended new craftist/teachers whom we've admired for a long time.  We hope you're as delighted at the prospect as us and we look forward to welcoming back some previous participants as well as new guests in the New Year.   Here goes.....
 Janet Bolton:  NARRATIVE STITCHES  6th-12th May
Julie Arkell:  TOYS  3rd-9th June
India Flint BEING (T)HERE  23rd-29th August
Ray Stitch: Dressmaking Retreat 6th-12 September
Asa Soderman of Asa Tricosa:  SEAMLESSLY CLEVER  14th-20th October

 Please note that there has been some confusion with the dates for the Asa Tricosa
workshop.  It is in October NOT November

It's quite a line up and we're delighted by the range of creative textile opportunities we've put together. If you feel like simply working on a project (or two) of your own in the incredible light and space of our beautiful studio but with all the accommodation options of a regular workshop, there is an opportunity to join a group of like-minded artist/crafters at the end of September for a week of Open Studio / Yoga.  You'll discover a lot more dates and details and information about the venue if you haven't joined us before on our website.  
Meanwhile, you might be interested in a new website we've come across called Botanica Tinctoriaa Candian company that sells trimmings and threads in a wide range of beautiful and fast colours. 
The carefully curated collection of trimmings includes ribbons, tapes, broderie anglaise and rick rack as well as high quality perle and 6-strand embroidery threads in 14 natural colours which are all sourced from traditional dye plants such as indigo and madder. I'm particularly tempted by the cotton voile.....Yummy!
Some of us are now off to Japan (with our knitting, of course) for four weeks of textile research and a much-needed break after a full-on summer season.  But we'll still be open for bookings and you can, of course, contact us directly if anything needs clarifying - we're always happy to help.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

ready, steady, ready...

Hurrah!  We are delighted to announce that Les Soeurs Anglaises' NEW CALENDAR OF EVENTS FOR 2015 is available to view on our website and you can now book a place on one of our exciting textile workshops planned for next year. 
The ever-popular, gentle but abundantly creative Janet Bolton will be returning to lead another of her superb stitched collage events, as will the ebullient and inspirational Julie Arkell whose workshops are always sell-outs. To keep things fresh we have also invited a few delightful new workshop leaders to join us next year, including  the Internationally acclaimed  dyer and stitcher, India Flint, (who will be flying in from Australia to lead her first ever event for us); the captivatingly stylish and original knitwear designer Åsa Söderman (of Åsa Tricosa fame who will be  following in the massively experience footsteps of knitwear designer, Marion Foale, and will be teaching her own version of the Ziggurat technique). And finally the dynamic duo, Gen and Rachel, from Ray Stitch haberdashery, situated in London's fashionable Islington, who will leading a much-requested Dressmaking Retreat for both beginners and more advanced dressmakers.

It's quite a line up and we're delighted by the range of creative textile opportunities we've put together.  If, however, you feel like simply working on a project (or two) of your own in the incredible light and space of our beautiful studio, there is an opportunity to join a group of like-minded artist/crafters at the end of September for a week of Open Studio / Yoga.

You'll discover a lot more dates and details and information about the venue if you haven't joined us before on our website, as well as booking forms, but do contact us directly if anything needs clarifying - we're always happy to help. Meanwhile, we look forward to meeting some of you next year!


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

.... result!.....

Saturday was the closing date for our Ebay Auction and we are delighted to announce that our beautiful Textile Quilt of Words raised over £500 ($800) for the Cambodian Children's Fund.  The highest bidder was a  Les Soeurs Anglaises' past (and hopefully future) participant who had the advantage of seeing the quilt whilst she was at one of our workshops earlier in the year.  We are thrilled that it has gone to such a worthy home and thank you again to everyone who contributed.

LSA's Calendar for 2015 is currently being uploaded onto our website, so it shouldn't be long before you can book on-line ( we promise to let you know the minute it's up).  We are delighted to be introducing two or three new workshop leaders to Les Soeurs Anglaises, as well as featuring our second Open Studio (with a yoga option this time).  And to add a little frisson to 2015, there'll be an amazing Fete de Boogie Woogie for those who just want a few days of brilliant live music, gourmet food and vintage wine in a spectacular part of France at the best time of the year.  A great  Christmas gift for that special someone.

While you wait for the Calendar to go up, here are a few things that might keep you entertained:

  • Well known stitcher and collagist, Cas Holmes is currently exhibiting at Memory Cloth at the  Lace Museum in the Netherlands. It opens on the 12th October and she will be giving a weekend workshop on 13th & 14th December.  The exhibition also features the work of  Cherilyn Martin, Els van Baarle and  Glenys Mann.  
  • On the subject of quilts, read this one about quilter, Leslie Morgan.  The Textile Artist newsletter is also a great way to keep up to date with what's going on in the world of textiles.
  • There will another Clerkenwell Vintage Fair this weekend in Central London if you visiting the Big Smoke.  Really worth a visit if you love vintage clothes.
  • Which is why it's good to hear that one of my all time favourite on-line shops, Donna Flower, has just opened a "proper", real-life, shop in Barnstaple, North Devon, UK.  Lucky Devonians can now pop in and rummage through her eclectic stock whenever they need a pick-me-up.  
  • Our resident monoprinter and all-round wonderful artist, Emma Whigham (you'll see her new drawings on our updated website soon), has started making bright and beautiful jewellery in colourful, geometric designs, soon to be available on her Etsy shop.  As a one-time professional jeweller, she embraces the delicate, handmade techniques and is most happy involved in the slow process of making and designing; an antidote to the fast and hectic pace of our lives nowadays.  
  • We love, love, love Kate Bowles' work!    Having recently had an Open Studio event here where the resident artists, Alison Kuller and Jone Hallmark, were both involved in the art of making books, our eyes have been opened to the painstakingly difficult but utterly satisfying work of creating and stitching a book together, whether it be a journal, sketch or memo pad.   Kate's work and colours are just gorgeous and we hope one day to get her down here to lead a workshop for us.

  • Finally, if you feel you just can't let go of winter, we have a dear French vintage, sleeveless, fine cotton shirt for sale.  It is definitely a UK size 10 / Europe 38/ US size 8, and could be worn over a long-sleeved vest and would great with jeans or a full 50s skirt.   £30 / 38€ / $48 + postage

I'd like to buy it

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

... just a reminder .......

Just a reminder that it's only a day or two to go before our Patchwork Quilt of Words auction, to raise money for the Cambodian Childrens Fund, closes on Ebay and we'd hate for you to miss it.   It's a simply beautiful quilt which has been on display in our Studio for the last couple of workshops and much admired - the photographs don't really do it justice - and we are hugely grateful to all the kind people who sent in a jigsaw piece.  Below is a list of all the people who sent in contributions to the Textile Jigsaw of Words; many sent in more than one!.  A great big thank you from both Les Soeurs Anglaises and The Cambodian Childrens Fund.

Jane Whigham: One never loves enough
Claire Sounes:   Peace and Creativity, Carpe Diem, Love is all you need (x3)
Anna Wright:    Inspiration exists
Denyce Aresti:  Just make things; Raise your words not your voice
Jone Halmark:  It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;  Friendship  USA
Rachel Ross:     when patterns are broken new worlds emerge
Isabella Simpson:  A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Abi Bown: ….pick yourself up dust yourself down
Geraldine Field: To live is to sew to sew is to live
Sue Hill:  Thrift is poetic because it is creative
Daniella Hanson:  Even after all this time (x4)
Christine Green:  Do what you love what you do
Ali Dawson:  Creativity is contagious
Marketta Timonen:  Mama; Rose
Sue Aron:  there’s always time for tea
Lisa Jayne Canhem: You can’t use up creativity (x5)
Beverley Peach: A stitch in time
Jill Meredith: Love the children and give them room to grow  (x2)
Penny Shearer: Drink to me only with thine eyes
Brita Melandez:  You only live once but if………
Margaret Patterson: There is no boundary line to art (x2)
Yasuyo Sugimoto: We were born to live  (x2)
Susu:  I had no idea what I was going to do and wasted no
time making a start
Gail Bett:  She’ll be apples    Australia
Sonia Davis:  Let me not to the marriage of the minds admit impediment
Jackie Jezewski: Bad artists copy great artists steal  (x3) France
Thyra Schubert: Joy      USA
Gill Howl:  May your sorrows be patched and your joys quilted    France
Judi Gedye: Rire les enfants   Canada
Barbra Lindberg:  Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties 
(x2)  Sweden
Jean Coburn:  moon beams on water  (x3)  British Columbia
Ilaria Marzola:  Carpe Diem
Shizue McGreavy:  Search for peace (x3)
Gwen Edwards:  We send hope give all to luck
Andrea Hamilton:  It is free to love spend it wisely  (x3)
Tina Sanderson:  A patchwork of warmth

(Very many apologies to anyone we have missed on this list)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

.... textile jigsaw quilt auction.....

You may remember that earlier this year Les Soeurs Anglaises mounted a competition to win a place on one of our popular workshops (see previous blog).  Interested participants were asked to submit a jigsaw shaped patchwork piece, stitched with inspirational wording, to be made up into a quilt – the finished quilt to be auctioned to raise funds for the Cambodian Children’s Fund, an amazing charity based in Phnom Penh that provides life-changing education, nourishment and healing to vulnerable children from some of Cambodia’s most destitute communities, most of whom live on the rubbish tips around the city.

With a prize worth over £1000 on offer and a great cause at the heart of it, the skilfully stitched ‘jigsaw’ pieces by textile artists from all over the world started to pour in, and once our workshop leaders had chosen the winning piece (not an easy decision) at our Ray Stitch Reception back in April, Les Soeurs had the task of sewing all the pieces together into the one beautiful quilt.  We then backed it with cotton and lined it with vintage French linen and the unique finished quilt, incorporating every one of the wonderful submissions, is now available for auction on eBay.  For the next ten days only, you can add your bid to win this amazing one-off, textile jigsaw - which would look equally good covering a favourite bed or decorating a wall - and at the same time help raise a substantial sum for CCF.

Backed in vintage French linen by Les Soeurs the quilt measures 110cms by 160cms 


We'll be posting developments and letting you know the final amount raised, but meanwhile, thank you to everyone who contributed to this beautiful piece - for their hard work and creativity.  Inspirational!

We'll ask be announcing our new website, with all the workshop dates for next year, very shortly.  There will be a few surprises, new faces, and unusual developments, so make sure you watch this space!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

fine stitching with miss jessie......

Last week saw the closing days of another Jessie Chorley Workshop at Les Soeurs Anglaises.  Jessie's unique style of working and teaching make her a firm favourite with participants and it seemed to be a particularly exciting and creative five days this time round.  The fact that we walked straight into an Indian Summer, might have helped, with plenty of sunshine allowing us to eat out every day and organise, a picnic lunch beside gorgeous local ponds - a first and something we hope to make a regular event.
Jessie brought with her an individual project bag for each participant containing, amongst other ephemera, a delicate handkerchief with the date personally hand-stitched.  On this each person worked their own motif before passing it along to the next person to add theirs.  By the end of the five days each participant had a beautiful multi-stitched souvenir to take away with them.  Meanwhile, they worked on their main project which in most cases was a unique and beautiful "book-box".  It was hard to drag some of the ladies away for meals, but once separated from their work there was time to go for a dip in one of the pools, or just sit and chat in the dappled sunshine.  


Two of those present were winners of LSA's past competitions.  Lizz Harding won last year's Hare competition; and Claire Sounes, whose wonderfully stitched contributions to the Cambodian Childrens Fund Textile Quilt (soon to be auctioned on Ebay - watch this space) wowed our workshop leaders.  Both have since sent us messages of thanks:

"Having just completed a textile foundation course at Morley College, London, coming to Les Soeurs Anglaises to do Jessie Chorley's workshop was a much needed and welcome creative break.  With beautiful blue skies to greet us, there was a seemingly endless supply of fantastic food to keep us fuelled for days of  stitching and making in the glorious open and spacious studio.  I was in heaven!  Such great company, too.  It was lovely to make new, like-minded friends and have fun working together with guidance from such a fantastic and generous teacher.  Jessie gave us all the individual attention and inspiration we needed and I have learnt so much in such a short time.  A big thank you to LSA for making it possible." 
Lizz Harding

'I had the great fortune to win a workshop at Les Soeurs Anglais and spent an idyllic week on a workshop run by the super talented Jessie Chorley.  With a very friendly group of fellow makers I stitched away in Les Soeurs Anglaises' stunning converted barn looking out at expansive views of the remarkable French countryside.  We enjoyed delicious food throughout the five days, including a memorable picnic. The sun shone everyday, making it warm enough to swim in the two open air pools but there was also time to visit local markets and shops where I found some wonderful linen.  I came away feeling refreshed, relaxed and inspired to use the techniques I learnt at the workshop.  A truly memorable and special week.'
Claire Sounes
Jessie may well be "supervising" our Open Studio event next year.  Information about it will be on our new calendar, available on our website within the next few weeks.  We'll keep you posted.

For those of you looking for a suitable late summer/early autumn pinafore the below might be just the ticket.  Hand-made by Les Soeurs Anglaises in 100% vintage, red gingham linen found recently at a local brocante. Below knee length and loose enough to be worn with a shirt underneath (not included in price) or with a little cardigan on top.  
Size 12/14
$190 / £118 + postage

I'd like to buy this now

Monday, 25 August 2014

... the marriage of true minds......

Call me an old sentimentalist but having such a wonderful wedding here recently got me daydreaming about what I might wear if I was twenty (thirty?) years younger and planning a big wedding celebration here at Les Soeurs Anglaises; a sort of brain candy exercise.  It would be really interesting to hear whatyou would wear and how you would celebrate if you were six months away from the Big Day .....

Balenciago 2006                                   Yohji Yamamoto 1999

               Bienenkiste, Irving Penn for Vogue US 1995                Comme des Garcons 1990                                      

       ? Talk about princess for a day......                                   and beautiful bridesmaids                             

Carol, Les Soeur's transport co-ordinator and wedding organiser extraordinaire (many of you who have visited us in the past will know her well as the cheeky, little sister) is now taking bookings for weddings next year and 2016 at Les Soeurs Anglaises through her company, Simply French Weddings.  Interestingly she comments, 

"Although white is the classic colour for a bride, other colour is always a very important part of the celebrations.  Each wedding might begin with the bride-to-be describing her favourite colours, and with these as a foundation we can design almost every aspect of her wedding - choosing the flowers, table linens, the decorations for l'Espace (Les Soeurs' beautiful venue), lighting, food, seating etc.  Colour is a powerful ingredient which we love synchronising with the greens and flower shades from LSA's amazing mature gardens as a backdrop!"

If you're helping to plan a wedding for someone you love sometime in the near future you might like to visit the artful Jessie Chorley's shop in Columbia Road, London where she makes her unique handmade wedding invites, seating plans, wedding albums and other bespoke celebratory items.  All of which can be treasured and/or framed once the Big Day is over.  And if you think you might like Jessie to show you how to make your own, we still have one place left on Jessie's workshop, Usable Treasures, here from the 2nd to 9th September.
Ah, what fun to be young and in love again!  


Thursday, 7 August 2014

... summer break.....

With our first Open Studio event behind us, we have a couple or weeks to take a breath and relax before Jessie Chorley's Usable Treasures Workshop at the beginning of September, a time we are very much looking forward to (a place has become available if anyone can join us last minute).

Until then, here are few items that have caught my eye and might stir your interest.

I recently bought for my darling grandson a hand-made mobile of seagulls from a Japanese stylist and designer living in France, Masami Akatsuka
It currently hovers below the lamp in his bedroom and he absolutely adores it.  Masami has a website shop, Cocon, and her work is utterly collectable whether you are considering a gift for a young friend or member of the family, or just love beautiful things..
On Sunday 14th September, there is another Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair in London.  I am a complete sucker for most things 50s, and have been to a couple of these Fairs in the past where I managed to pick up some really fun (and very wearable) clothing and fabric.  Considering the quality and workmanship that went into most clothing 50 years ago, the prices are remarkably reasonable - definitely worth a visit if you are in town.
To be perfectly honest, I don't follow many blogs, but I am a great fan of Austin Kleon, whose book, Steal Like an Artist, was a revelation (I gave a couple of copies away to crafter friends who are now also fans).  In his last post he published a quote from John Green, whose most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars, became TIME’s #1 fiction book of the year.   I think his words apply as much to artists and crafters as they do to would-be writers:
"Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts. Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won't - and if they don't notice, it may be frustrating, but ultimately that doesn't change a thing - because your responsibility is not to the people you're making the gift for but to the gift itself."  
A stitcher and quilter I have long admired, Cas Holmes, whose consistently beautiful work has won numerousawards rather than money (I'm guessing) down the years is currently visiting Australia where Glenys Mann of Fibre Arts Australia has organised various exhibitions for her, one at Warwick Art Gallery, Queensland - I suggest you get there to see it if you can, you won't be disappointed.

If can't travel to Australia for an exhibition  just at the moment but you're into things small and beautiful, you might like this tiny, vintage shirt discovered recently at a local brocante.  Made of finest voile and perfect in every detail, this is a shirt-maker's prototype that would have been shown to potential customers as an example of the finished, full-size man's shirt.  $40 (£29)

I'd like to buy this item